Sunday, January 31, 2010

Speculating on the Speculative

Last week, there was a post on the Netflow Developments blog titled “Science Fiction as a Tool for Human Survival” in which the writer laments the demise of what might be seen as a more meaningful age in terms of our genre.

“Sci-fi has for a very long time served the purpose of framing current sensitive social and political issues and putting them into a clear perspective without making people feel preached to,” says the writer. “It was a way to get people to think about issues that they normally wouldn’t or didn’t want to think about for various psychological reasons…this has always been the greatest strength of the genre and during the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, with the exception of Star Wars and a few other more trivial pieces, the genre as a whole set out to bring a multitude of social issues into the spotlight….Because of this evolution of the genre I feel that we are going to see a clear divide coming down between Sci-fi action flicks such as the last Star Trek, or Avatar and then the sci-fi that attempts to shine light on these dark recesses of our mind that we so conveniently block out such as District 9 or Soylent Green.”

The writer goes on to quote an article by film maker Alex Rivera. Speaking of his debut film Sleep Dealer, Rivera says “I love gnomes and goblins and elves, but what I'm really interested in is speculative fiction. I wanted to use this film to ask the question, ‘Where are we going?’”

The writer of the Netflow Developments blog goes on to suggest that most science fiction today leans in the direction of “eye candy”; going for visual effect, seeking to satisfy “the increasingly shrinking attention span and ever expanding mental laziness of the developed world.” The implication is that some works, which can be categorised as “speculative fiction”, are worthy of our attention, while works of the “eye candy” variety are unworthy and are therefore nothing but “science fiction”.

As a long-time lover of “science fiction” I resent this. The term “speculative fiction” has been in use for many decades — in fact, the earliest citation by Wikipedia dates from 1889! It has become a reasonably well-accepted umbrella term to cover all the speculative genres, which certainly include science fiction, fantasy and horror and can be stretched to encompass, for example, alternative history and magical realism and possibly more.

For isn’t all fiction, by its very nature, speculative? What is the difference between writing a story set in an imaginary town on Earth called Smithville, with a trio of characters called Amber, Jason and Brett, and one set on another planet with characters called Ambyria, Jasek and Bremet? Both stories would be, basically, packs of lies that set out, first and foremost to entertain the reader. And if they are worth reading, they will also explore such questions as Rivera’s "Where are we going?" For if a story does its job well, it will be a pack of lies that points the finger at an eternal truth.

I want and expect any book I read or film I see to examine some aspect of what it means to be human. If it doesn’t do this, it will not grab me, and, I suspect, it will not grab many other readers or viewers, either. The only question is “To what depths of investigating humanity’s essence does this story go?”

For this exploration of the human condition can be very deep indeed, or it can skate over the surface, even make us laugh. The difference between Star Trek and Soylent Green is purely one of degree. Both make us look at the eternal question of good and evil: Star Trek does it by entertaining us; Soylent Green does it by shocking us. I would suggest that all the arts are capable of doing both, and that the speculative genres can do it better than most through the use of allegory, symbol and metaphor. There is nothing inherently wrong in seeking to entertain first and provoke thought second, and to highjack the term “speculative fiction” and use it only to refer to those works that set out to grab the reader by the throat and shake her into considering the deeper meaning behind the story and characters is to do a gross injustice to those works that choose to instruct through laughter, sympathetic response and archetypal stories and characters — and yes, eye candy. The difference is only one of degree, and who can say where “science fiction” ends and “speculative fiction” starts?

Some people have tried — Margaret Atwood, for one — but to the average reader or viewer such distinctions are nothing but hair-splitting. If a story deals with things that do not exist or have not happened, as far as we know, at any time in human history, it is speculation. It asks what if… and, if it does its job properly, it leads us, in exploring that question, to consider some aspect of ourselves and the world and our place in it.

I am indebted* to Robert Hoge for raising the similarity between the arguments of Alex Rivera and Margaret Atwood. Both have tried to belittle science fiction: Atwood is on record as describing it as "talking squids in outer space." Fortunately Atwood has modified her stance in recent years: in an interview for The Guardian in 2005 she admitted that “science fictional narratives give a writer the ability to explore themes in ways that realistic fiction cannot”.

Bravo, Ms Atwood. Now, will someone please explain it to Mr Rivera and the writer over at Netflow Developments?

*I am also indebted to Paul Mannering for first drawing the attention of members of the Vision writers list to this discussion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Way to go Alisa and Deb!

Congrats to Deb Biancotti and Alisa Krasnostein for their shortlisting for the Crawford Award!

The award committee shortlisted Deborah Biancotti's collection A Book of Endings, Kari Sperring's novel Living with Ghosts, and Ali Shaw's novel The Girl With Glass Feet, and wanted to commend two other authors whose works were ineligible this year but were highly regarded: Robert V.S. Redick, whose The Red Wolf Conspiracy appeared in 2008 and whose The Ruling Sea appears in 2010, and Michal Ajvaz, whose The Other City originally appeared in Czech in 1993 but was first translated into English by Gerald Turner in 2009.


Help for Haiti

Realms of Fantasy are making donations! For every subscription received until the 28th of February 2010 they will donate a dollar to the Red Cross!

Warren Lapine says:

After watching the news coverage of Haiti I've decided that Tir Na Nog should do something to help. So we'll donate $1.00 for each year of new subscriptions that Realms of Fantasy receives from now until February 28 and we'll also donate $1.00 for each year of renewals that ROF receives on our next renewal cycle which will mail out next week (renewing through our website between now and the 28th will also get your renewal counted). So if someone subscribes or renews for one year we'll donate $1.00 to the Red Cross and if they subscribe or reup for two years we'll donate $2.00. Lets make a difference!


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hugo Voting and Nominations on the Cheap!

Cheryl Morgan (international fan extraordinaire!) has put up a Guest Post at Feminist SF - The Blog! and it is a MUST READ! Cheryl gets into the hows, why, and finances of nominating works for the Hugo awards, and then also suggests a whole pile of hard working people who should be on the ballots.



Monday, January 25, 2010

Editing is Creative Writing Too

Dear Sarah,

Please don't forget that editing (at this level) is as much a creative process as is the initial creation of the novel.

Lots of love, 


I don't often email myself, or every one else by accident, but I did the other day. I have a lot of confidence issues about my work. I have a lot of angsting and whining as go through each stage of writing. Sometimes it's fun. Sometimes it's less so.

This email to myself was an epiphany. I had spent four working days (child free days) and a number of non-child free days wrestling constantly with the fact I need to drag my novel into the next draft. The Egoboo group have been wonderfully supportive and inspiring, but let's be honest here. I read one of the crits and it was so happy and positive and warm and generous I cried. That's right. I cried because I got warm, positive, happy feedback.

And it took me about 2 months to even consider reading it. Even after I listened to all the warm, generous, positive things people had to say, I still had some mental block that meant I couldn't start to learn and do until I'd scaled it.

So have I scaled it?

I think that moment when I realised the editing process can be as creative as the writing process was the first chink in the wall. I have a toehold. I can get my fingers in the cracks. The part where I put my weight onto my fingers and toes is coming, but now I feel like it's possible.

Part of this is undoing my own indoctrination on how I think the writing process works. Some subconscious part of me thinks that you write a story, cut it into shape, and play with the words, and that the writing part is 'fun' and the editing part is 'work'. Reaising that the next draft of this book is going to be equally creative is a breakthrough for me. I need to tie off threads, add threads in, rewrite scenes... all of this needs me to be alert creatively, on the ball linguistically, and thoughtful plot-wise.

This is a chance to make the ideas and the storyline awesome. And that's why it's worth all the self-learning and revelations and ephiphanies. They're hard won, and they're going to be reflected in this book which will be the best I can make it.

Maybe next time the letter will read:

Dear Sarah,

You're working hard on making this the best book it vcan be. Well done, it's going brilliantly.  Keep up the hard work.

Lots of Love, 


Friday, January 22, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Useful

What Can Be Learned from Watching Avatar

At Clarion West, Connie Willis and Cory Doctorow used movies to point out important plotting techniques. Ever since, I haven't been able to watch any movie without taking note of the things that make that movie work. This week, when I watched Avatar for the second time, I not only took note of the plot, but also saw a good many reasons why the plotting of speculative fiction can end up being more problematic and more complex than the plotting of a text set in the real world.

This is where I put in the SPOILER ALERT using some underwater photos I took during my scuba diving days back in the 80s because underwater landscapes are almost as pretty as those on Avatar's Pandora, and much prettier than a line of asterisks.

A Gorgonia tree near Farukolufushi, Maldives:

A living, white cowrie shell with its glittering mantle near Solitary Islands, NSW, Australia:

I took these pictures with a Nikonos IVA underwater camera and a Sea & Sea YS150 strobe at a depth of about 40-60ft.

Now, back to Avatar:

For the purposes of simplicity, let’s reduce Avatar to its romantic plot:

Jake meets Neytiri on Neytiri’s turf. Jake stays.

Not many words were needed for that.

So, to make it more interesting, let’s turn it into a historical romance:

Jake meets Neytiri at the height of colonial expansion. Jake likes Neytiri's turf, fights off single-minded colonizers, and stays.

As you can see, a few more words were needed to convey a sense of the past.

But that’s been done before, so let’s turn it into a future-fantasy romance and see what happens:

Jake meets Neytiri on this awesomely weird planet that has a poisonous atmosphere, a Mothertree and unobtainium. In order to fit in, Jake has to be an avatar. So now we’ve got to see how an avatar works. If Jake wants to stay, we also have to see how he can reside permanently inside an avatar, so we have to foreshadow how it’s done through drama. Hence we not only attempt the mind-transference thing on Grace first, but we also see an opportunity to kill her off in order to increase the tension when it’s Jake’s turn. But then we have to make the whole concept of mind-transference believable, so it doesn't look like a deus ex machina. To do this we have to really play up the whole mother/computer tree concept and use it dramatically, so that it's not just backdrop. And even though all those battle sequences bored me, at least they helped turn the computer tree into an active character in its own right. (Here I’m not talking about the whole Gaia-Eywa thing, but the fact that the setting actually means something). If there wasn’t any drama, then we’d end up with large passages of expository lumpage (info dump) and the story would be even more boring than a battle. This is not to say that a battle was the only way to go, but this is a movie, right? Hopefully a book would be different.

So that’s what I saw in Avatar:

Drama and foreshadowing in the place of info dump.
Setting as an active character in its own right, rather than merely backdrop.
Some good reasons why speculative fiction requires a whole lot more plotting than fiction set in the real world.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Eagle Bay Critiquing.

We’ve had some enquiries about how we Egobooers went about critiquing for the retreat so to answer your questions…

It can be difficult for the inexperienced critiquer to realise what is involved. There’s no doubt in my mind that critiquing is an art. Anyone can read a piece of writing, look at a painting or listen to a musical performance and say ‘I didn’t like it’ or ‘I loved it’. They are both quite valid comments in the context of personal reactions – but they are emotional responses, not a critique. A critique is a critical assessment of what you have experienced as a reader and that includes the good and the bad. By all means, if you didn’t enjoy a story you can say so but you must be able to say why – and this is when it becomes hard.

As far as the Egobooers go in terms of critiquing experience we're a mixed group. Two of us have attended Clarions (a great source of honed critiquing skills), one is an editor while the other two are less experienced. It didn’t matter. The range of experience in fact brought fresh approaches and different perspectives which added to the experience.

Some focussed more on the technicalities of language like grammar, structure and language usage; others on plot structure and coherency of ideas or characterisation. While we each brought something unique to our critiques, though, we all also brought a commonality of ideas. While I was sitting there, condemned to silent listening as my fellow Egobooers went through their comments, I was struck by how often the same issues came up. I had fifteen repeated points by the end of my session.

Despite our differences our critiques all followed a similar pattern – a short comment of what we liked most about the story followed first by what worked for the reader and then any areas that didn’t work with suggestions to be considered as to how this could be improved.

We found that while we hadn’t set out any specific criteria (although some of us did ask for particular aspects to be looked at) we all tended to comment on the usual important areas, those that make up the framework of a story of any kind - things like the opening, plot, point of view, writing style, character and characterisation, dialogue, setting and repetition and so on. If you go to any of the many excellent articles online or in books on writing you will find lists of what to look for when you are tackling a critique. They are a great source of detailed reminders of what you need to think about.

But that is the technical side. Beyond that there were certain basic precepts we all followed.

1. We were honest. This is not always easy to do when you are eviscerating someone’s darling in front of them but it is essential.

2. We were gentle. It is possible not to be brutal even if what you are saying is harsh.

3. We aimed at helping but not rewriting. The suggestions we made were just that – suggestions.

4. We made it clear that we respected the work we were critiquing. In every novel there were original ideas and great writing. Our aim was to help the writer improve on that.

5. We never criticised the person only the writing in its many aspects.

While these were not spelled out but came from our respect for each other I think they were an essential part of the success of the Eagle Bay retreat.

There is more to critiquing, of course, and I will look at some of those skills in another post.

Monday, January 18, 2010


I'm on the Life In The First Draft blog! It's a place for writers to talk about what, where, and how they do their work, hopefully a source of inspiration for people starting up and wanting to see what we do. I talk about things I have learnt - Planning to Learn and Learning to Plan. Check it out!

Creative Flurries and Writing Addictions

 I felt like pointing us all to Subnormality:

(For those with vision impairments, it's a comic about a man who pays a woman to write/make up a story for him, in the vein of hiring a prostitute. It's a horror story, and when he's had his terrors, they chat on the way back to her street corner about why she accepts cash to write trash. She says writing is an addiction, and tells of how she started writing casually in school, and now she's totally hooked and has to feed her addiction somehow.)

I find it interesting to liken writing to an addiction because when I'm in the zone, it is totally addictive. Everything that drags me away from the PC gets balanced against the loss of the creative spark in that window. If something falls below that mark, then I cancel it/ignore it and stay on the PC. I try to keep it under control, because I can ignore everything when I am in a creative flurry, and I get very excitable about interruptions. Having two small children isn't good for an interruption free writing career! I also don't want their memories of their mum to be of me yelling at them to leave me alone! So, I try to keep my 'creative flurries' in the safe zones - when they are not around.

At the same time, I am aware that writing is not a true addiction. The destructive nature of a true addiction is an awful, awful thing to be a part of, be close to, or be near. Hopefully writers are a bit easier on their friends, spouses and children! I like creative flurry as it indicates the chaotic nature of my word production; and a certain sense of speed or urgency.

How do you describe your creative flurries? Do you find it addictive? What other words would you use to describe the way you feel about your creative flow?


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Aus Spec Fic Carnival January 2010

Egoboo is opening this year with a bang! As this month's hostesses, we welcome you to check out some of the exciting thoughts, articles, blog posts and everything we could find that relates to the Australian Speculative Fiction scene. Please enjoy!

Alisa Krasnostein announces the webpages, tweetpage, and Facebook page for Natcon50! This is also a call for Natcon Memorabilia. She also provides us with a few tools to help with promotion. She also announces what TPP has done that is eligible for a Hugo, and Tansy follows this with her mentions of favourite Australian works that are eligible too. Roadkill/Siren beat has won a Bibliophile Stalker Award for Cover Design! Well done Twelfth Planet Press!

Continuum 6 will be on soon! If you're free on the 26-28th February, 2010, and happen to be in Melbourne, then come along and check it out! If you're in Perth over Easter, then note that Swancon is rapidly approaching! If you're not going near either, both are more than happy to take supporting memberships. Aussiecon4 has announced an LJ to help people with travel arrangements to and from the convention.

Moonvoice rants about something very important - paying the artist.

Ripley Patton discusses jumping the shark,and announces a new online magazine called Wily Website.

JasonFischer talks about author bios, and Gillian works a bit on hers. He also talks about his novel writing process, and drops a few hints.

Tansy Rayner Roberts thinks about race and reader expectations, the guilt-work balance, and writing while the house is messy. She also hopes to learn more about Joanna Russ, a major figure in the history of feminist SF.

Kate Paulk thinks about writers trying to be normal, to which Rowena Cory Daniels asks us a few more questions. Rowena also blows Trent's trumpet. While I want to add a phrase to explain that further, I think you all should just click on the link and enjoy.

Alan Baxter reviews A Slice of Life by Paul Haines, Avatar, and discusses why The Phantom Menace was a terrible film. He also urges people to submit! Properly, that is! And he takes a good look at Gillian Pollack's Life Through Cellophane.

Patty Jansen has some thoughts on Avatar as well. Plus she thinks about the future of SF, and puts up a few words about writing. She also discusses her submission statistics for 2009.

Alannah Horgan announces the winners of the Shades Sentience Short Story Competition! Congratulations to Kia Groom for Lucid Dreaming.

Fantasy Writers on Retreat announces they exist! Yay Trudi Canavan, Russell Kirkpatrick, Nicole R Muprhy, Matthew Farrer, Cat Sparks, Kylie Seluka and Donna Maree Hanson! Plus ROR are barracking for their favourite Tansy!

Realms of Fantasy decide to upset a lot of people um have an all-female issue. Tansy has a few cents to spare, Alisa chimes in, and Robert Hoges also thinks about some of the issues raised. Patty Jansen has a few thoughts too, and Tansy revisits the topic a few days later, and so does Alisa. She also examines the gender ratios of the stories she has accepted for 'Sprawl.' Tansy also points us to Charlie Brown who talks about Fantasy's outreach efforts to find more women authors rather than dedicating a single issue to them. , where the discussion continues.

Alisa ponders on some of the things she needs to do as an editor, and talks about five lies writers believe about editors. She also mentions some of the best parts of editing anthologies.

The Tangled Bank: Love, Wonder, & Evolution is about to launch! The anthology, which marks the 150th anniversary of Origin of Species, is bursting with over 100,000 words of fiction, poetry, artwork, and essays about evolution. An international lineup of nearly 50 contributors includes Sean Williams, Brian Stableford, Patricia Russo, Carlos Hernandez, Bruce Boston, and Emily Ballou. The Tangled Bank will be available for download and in print on Darwin Day: 12th February, 2010. A story from the anthology will be available free on the website.

Jason Fischer is releasing hordes of zombies! Check out Black House Comics for more details!

Juliet Marillier talks on Writer Unboxed about voice in writing.

Laura Goodin draws parallels between attitudes of martial arts practitioners and writers.

Helen Merrick is proud to announce the publication of her new book 'The Secret Feminist Cabal: Cultural History of Science Fiction Feminisms' and gets a rather unusual review.

Once again, Mondy reviews a lot of stuff. Electric Velocipede gets a mention, as does Doctor Who: The Ebd of Time Part One and Part Two, a movie called Lifeforce from 1985, Under the Dome by Stephen King, and talks about the 78 books he read last year.

Carol Ryles talks about switching gender in her story, and what she learned in the process.

Glenda Larke posts about proofs, and things to do while waiting 2 hours for a cable car. (Read your proofs works for me!)

Joanna Fay translates a poem for us all to ponder upon - To Paint a Bird's Portrait by 20th Century French surrealist poet, Jacques Prevert.

Tehani Wessley announces the Table of Contents for 'Worlds Next Door', an anthology aimed at 9 - 13 year olds.

Satima Flavell talks about why editors are important in the scheme of things.

Talie Helene talks about Writing Obsessed Wednesdays.

JM is starting up a new blog called Life in the First Draft. Yours truly will be there in a few days!

Fleur McDonald has giveaways on her blog including any available book by Allen and Unwin or a small gift pack and membership from the QLD writers centre, which also have online stuff, so it’s useful for poeple in other states too! 

Terra Incognita Science Fiction has a new podcast with Marianne de Pierres reading her short story 'In the Book Shadow'

Nominations for the Chronos Awards are now CLOSED. Thanks every one who nominated!

John Samuel also announces the Shortlist for the Chronos Awards! You need to be a full or supporting member to be able to vote, so get yours today!

Next month's carnival is being hosted by Writers on the Rise. Check them out and remember to send them links of things you want to promote.

Nyssa also announces a new link system for the Aus Spec Fic Carnival! Feel free to book mark this link. Use it every time you see something interesting or exciting about an Australian or New Zealand author, publisher, or reader related to Australian Speculative Fiction. We want to know more!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Final Call for Links

Please don't forget the Egoboo group is doing the Aus Spec Fic Carnival this month ! If you know of any articles, posts, discussions, launch announcements, anything that is Aus Spec Fic related, then please post a comment here, there, or email me. (CALLISTO AT G MAIL DOT COM)



Saturday, January 9, 2010

Thoughts on Writing Cross Gender.

When I first started novel writing in my early teens, my protagonists were always women. I didn’t feel confident leaping into the mind of a man because, although I had a fair idea of how men acted and spoke, I had no idea how they thought. My father would talk to me about science and science fiction, but not much else. My brother was into things mechanical, but I was too girlie and too bookish to be interested in fixing up old cars.

So how does a woman writer figure out how men think? Do men necessarily think like men? And do women necessarily think like women? Better still, is it possible that both genders secretly think like each other?

The obvious answer would be to go out and interview a few men. Not just fathers, husbands and brothers, but men from all walks of life. The problem with doing this, however, is that you don’t know if they are telling you the truth or if they are telling you what they think is supposed to be the truth.

Fortunately for women, there are a lot of books written by men about men. Over the years, these books have given me a good idea of how some men might think. One thing I learned very early was that not all men think alike – a lesson that was later backed up in real life.

I once knew a guy who loved extreme sports. He also liked to impress his girlfriends with his knowledge of women’s designer-label fashions. I knew another guy who liked to knit. His wife didn’t teach him. He taught her. Of course, I’ve met a lot of stereotypes as well: the men who won’t eat quiche, the ones who won’t cook, won’t cry in front of anyone (ever), or even talk about women’s business, let alone take part in it.

I once knew a guy, who at fifty, had no idea how to change a light bulb. I knew another who stayed home and looked after four young children while his wife worked full time. He loved being a house dad. He was an ex-soldier.

Some of the stereotypes were proud of their behaviour. Some weren’t. The same went for the rebels. Some kept it to themselves, others didn’t.

Recently, I set myself a challenge. I had this story I liked, but it was clich├ęd. I puzzled over alternative plotlines for months. Then it hit me. It wasn’t so much the plot that needed changing, but the two main characters. So the man became a woman and the woman became a man. Suddenly, the story took on a whole new meaning.

Once I got started again, it wasn’t just a case of dressing the two main characters differently or swapping their names or changing the shes to hes and hims to hers. Body language needed fixing. As did the way each character reacted to each other when they first met. Then there were the obvious things like, when the girl had to move something heavy, she had to get someone to help her. When the guy moved something heavy, he just did it. On a more subtle note, where the girl had woven a vine to make a sling, the guy ended up knotting it.

The girl scrambled down the hill. The guy loped. Not that girls can’t lope and guys can’t scramble, but the guy’s legs were longer. Nevertheless, the change still bothered me because, although it suited his physique better to lope, it also suited his personality. Probably, it would have suited the girl's personality too.

When things were going smoothly, the dialogue mostly worked well for both genders. But when conflict arose, things got tricky. When I put the guy’s words into the girl’s mouth, it made her confidently assertive. I liked the character much better this way. When I put the girl’s words into the guy’s mouth, he sounded not so much whiney, but afraid to say important things out straight. It’s not that guys aren’t allowed to be whiney or indirect, but I hadn’t noticed it when he was female. Male or female, this character deserved better.

On a different note, when the girl was asked to do something unpleasant, she flinched. In contrast, the guy didn’t flinch at all and said, “Gladly.” Though in reality, he didn’t mean it.

Is it really like that in real life? Was I trying to be character specific and failing? Or just cynical? Worse still, is this a sign that, as a writer, I’m sexist? Or is it a sign that I tend to be too black and white with my characterization? Should I instead be treating my characters merely as people, rather than as men or women, or either/or.

I’m still thinking about the answers to those questions. I suspect there may not be a correct one to any of them. However, the exercise wasn’t only useful in making my newer draft better than the original. It also taught me to think harder about how I represented gender – not just the opposite gender, but both.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Last Short Story Best Of List

Numbers have been crunched! Ben Payne has put up a list of the most popular stories from the Last Short Story Project, and loaded the new list up to show what we liked as a group.

Some very cool stuff out there last year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Call for Links!

Please don't forget the Egoboo group is doing the Aus Spec Fic Carnival this month ! If you know of any articles, posts, discussions, launch announcements, anything that is Aus Spec Fic related, then please post a comment here, there, or email me. (CALLISTO AT G MAIL DOT COM)



Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Creative Process in a (Poetic) Nutshell!

Dear Writerly Friends,
I'd like to share this little gem with you, from the 20th Century French surrealist poet, Jacques Prevert - a beautiful encapsulation of creativity to inspire us all for the new year. Happy Word-Painting!

To Paint a Bird's Portrait

First of all, paint a cage
with an opened door
then paint something pretty
something simple
something beautiful
something useful for the bird
Place the picture against a tree
in a garden
in a wood
or in a forest
hide yourself behind the tree
without speaking
without moving...
Sometimes the bird arrives quickly
but it can also take many years
to make up its mind
Don't be discouraged
wait for years if necessary
the speed or slowness of
the bird's arrival
doesn't have any relationship
to the result of the picture
When the bird comes
if it comes
keep the deepest silence
wait until the bird enters the cage
and when it has entered
close the door softly with the brush
remove one by one all the bars
taking care not to touch any
feather of the bird
Then draw the portrait of the tree
choosing the most beautiful branch
for the bird
paint also the green foliage
and the coolness of the wind
the sunlit dust
the sounds of animals and the grass
in the summer heat
and then, wait for the bird to decide to sing

If the bird doesn't sing
it's a bad sign
it means that the picture is wrong
but if it sings it's a good sign
it means that you can sign

so you tear with sweetness
a feather from the bird
and write your name in the corner
of the painting

*(I've translated this poem from the French version 'Pour faire le portrait d'un Oiseau' appearing on the website, which presents a collection of Jacques Prevert's poetry in French, with English interpretations).

Friday, January 1, 2010

Indiebooks Donating to Toodyay Bushfire Appeal

For the next two weeks, Indiebooksonline are donating to the Toodyay fire appeal: $5 from every paperback and $10 from every hardback sold through their webpage. Toodyay is a small town about 80 km from Perth, in Western Australia. More about the fire, including the destruction of 38 homes here.

Books available through Indie include Dirt Magic by Sean Williams and The Infernal by Kim Wilkins.